The event was well-publicised and well-supported by a host of different sponsors, and evidently an attractive proposition for those who attended. A sold-out success, this fundraiser was proof that a high price tag (at US$90 a head) does not necessarily put people off supporting an event if they feel they’ll be getting quality and value for their money, plus the satisfaction of knowing their donations are going to be wisely and well used for a cause close to their hearts.
This was a grand affair with no holds barred and attendees fully entered into the spirit of the occasion, dressing to the nines in the prescribed “safari chic” style, knocking back plenty of excellent Painted Wolf Wines (one of the sponsors of the event), bidding generously in the various auctions of paintings and safari holidays.
Starting at 4pm, attendees were welcomed into an area where art for both sale and auction was displayed, obviously wildlife themed and with strong emphasis on the endangered painted dog (or painted wolf), and plenty of delicious nibbles and welcoming glasses of Painted Wolf Rosalind rosé wine were served. Lee Vermark and her Gourmet Girls catered for the event, and what a splendid job, too – all the food was spectacular.
The next couple of hours were spent socialising and catching up with old friends, eating and drinking, admiring the art, enjoying the wildlife as sunset came, and relaxing on the very comfy furniture supplied by one of the sponsors, Lizard Designs. Suitable stirring African sounds were played in the background by Drum Cafe.
At sunset, we moved to our tables in a massive tent with a clear roof so we could still enjoy the stars and trees above us. An assortment of complimentary bottles of wine were supplied in generous quantities, either to drink or take home – most opting for the former!
Josh Ansley with Derek Bailey and Evicted provided the excellent live music for the evening and much energetic dancing took place, very late into the night. Compères Kevin Hanssen and Chipo Chakara did a very professional job, as one would expect of this proficient pair of actors.
The highlight of the evening, though, for many, had to be the various talks and presentations by key figures in the struggle to save the wild dog from extinction, which were, at once, shocking, sad, heart wrenching and uplifting.
Some horrifying statistics were shared. I was staggered to learn that only 1% of the 500 000 wild dogs estimated to have roamed all over the African continent just 100 years ago, remain. The rest? Shot out and snared, almost annihilated, in fact, as “pests” and “unwanted predators”.
Wild dogs by their very nature and survival techniques evolved over the millennia, need huge territories over which to range and hunt. As humans have broken up their territories, with fences, towns, cities, borders, farms, mines and so forth.
In addition, the balance of a wild dog pack is very fragile and the loss of just one often means the later loss of all. A pack generally needs at least nine members to fare well and each member plays a vital role.
With a kill rate of 80%, these supremely efficient hunters have an amazing social structure and ability to strategise and co-operate. Most game parks in Africa are not actually large enough to provide suitable hunting ranges for painted dogs – so they will then move beyond the game park boundaries into areas where they come into conflict with humans, who have little understanding of how they live.
The proceeds raised went to Painted Dog Conservation and the Lowveld Wild Dog Project, a project of the African Wildlife Conservation Fund.
BY ROSIE MITCHELL